Municipal authorities cannot be expected to wipe out all stray animals from roads; duty is to take sincere steps to ensure animals are rehabilitated: Delhi HC

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: The present contempt petition alleged contumacious and wilful disobedience, by the respondents, of the directions contained in order dated 25-09-2019, passed in a Public Interest Litigation for ensuring that the malady of stray cattle, monkeys, dogs and other such animals on the road and municipal areas in the city were properly dealt with. C. Hari Shankar, J., opined that the order dated 25-09-2019 had to be meaningfully understood, and it could not be expected that the municipal authorities could completely wipe out, from the roads and municipal areas of Delhi, all stray animals, whether cattle, monkeys, dogs or other animals. The duty of the municipal authorities was to take concerted, sincere and optimum steps to ensure that such animals were rehabilitated and did not possess a menace to residents of Delhi or to the traffic plying on the roads. The Court opined that there was a distinction between contempt and enforcement, and considering the status reports filed by the respondents, it could not be said that there was contumacious or wilful disobedience on their part in complying with the directions in its order dated 25-09-2019.

In an instant case, the present contempt petition alleged that there had been no sufficient compliance with the directions issued by the Court vide order dated 25-09-2019, whereby the Court stated that it expected from the respondents, that a committee or other type of body would be constituted immediately, so that they might evolve some scheme or policy on how to control these stray cattle, street dogs and monkeys and the action would be initiated immediately. Further, it was also stated that it was the respondents’ duty to provide anti-rabies vaccination to Government hospitals/dispensaries, which should be provided at the earliest.

Further, several status reports had been filed in the present case, and the latest status report that was filed averred that as per Cabinet Decision dated 29-07-1994, a total of nine stretches of land belonging to the Gaon Sabha were allocated to various NGOs for establishment and running of Gausadans in Delhi, and six Gausadans were accordingly established in different parts of Delhi. Further, as the licence of one Gausadans was cancelled on 03-05-2019 and the trustee/management committee of another Gausadan surrendered in 2004, the municipal authorities were in the process of framing of rules and expression of interest for allotment, improvement and running of the Gausadans, following which a fresh allotment of Gausadans would be undertaken. The status report further stated that presently, the estimated cattle population in Delhi after the COVID-19 pandemic, was around 83,671 and the four Gaushalas present in the city contained sufficient space to accommodate abandoned cattle.

The Court opined that the assertions contained in the status report sufficed to constitute substantial compliance with the directions contained by this Court in its order dated 25-09-2019. The Court further opined that the order dated 25-09-2019 had to be meaningfully understood, and it could not be expected that the municipal authorities could completely wipe out, from the roads and municipal areas of Delhi, all stray animals, whether cattle, monkeys, dogs or other animals. The duty of the municipal authorities was to take concerted, sincere and optimum steps to ensure that such animals were rehabilitated and did not possess a menace to residents of Delhi or to the traffic plying on the roads.

The Court opined that there was a distinction between contempt and enforcement, and further considering the aforesaid status reports filed by the respondents, it could not be said that there was contumacious or wilful disobedience on their part in complying with the directions in its order dated 25-09-2019. The Court opined that in the event that the petitioner was still unhappy with the measures that had been taken, it would be open to him to agitate the said grievance in the appropriate proceedings.

[Salek Chand Jain v. Vijay Kumar Dev, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 961, Order dated 07-02-2024]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioner: J.K. Gupta, Advocate;

For the Respondents: Aditi Saraswat, Advocate for Jawahar Raja, ASC (Civil) GNCTD; Akhil Mittal, Standing Counsel; Vivek Kumar, Advocate.

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